Kung Pao Chicken


¾cup low-salt chicken broth
2Tbs. soy sauce
1Tbs. balsamic vinegar
¼cup plus 1 Tbs. cornstarch
2tsp. toasted sesame oil
1-½tsp. granulated sugar
1-½lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-½-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼cup canola oil
3small hot red dried chiles, such as Thai chiles or chiles de arbol, split lengthwise (reserve the seeds)
2Tbs. minced fresh ginger
6scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens kept separate
1medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
2inner ribs celery, cut crosswise ½ inch thick
¼cup dry sherry
¼cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts


Whisk the chicken broth, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbs. of the cornstarch, sesame oil, and sugar in a measuring cup. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with 3/4 tsp. salt and a few generous grinds of pepper. Add the remaining 1/4 cup cornstarch and toss with the chicken (you may want to use tongs as the cornstarch has a chalky texture), shaking off any excess cornstarch. Heat 3 Tbs. of the canola oil in a large (12-inch), heavy-based skillet over medium-high heat until it's shimmering hot. Sauté the chicken, flipping after 2 minutes, until it's lightly browned on two sides, about 4 minutes total (it's all right if the chicken sticks slightly and if the sides of the chicken are still raw). Add the remaining 1 Tbs. canola oil to the skillet. Add the chiles and their seeds, the ginger, and the whites of the scallions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the red pepper and celery and cook, stirring, until they soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until it almost completely reduces, 30 to 60 seconds, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits. Give the chicken broth mixture a quick whisk, stir it into the chicken and vegetables, and bring to a boil (the sauce should immediately thicken). Slice into one of the thicker pieces of chicken to see if it's cooked through. If still pink, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook a few minutes more. Serve immediately, ­sprinkled with the peanuts and scallion greens. SOURCE: Fine Cooking